Charles Thomas (historian)
|Born||Antony Charles Thomas
April 26, 1928
|Died||April 7, 2016(aged 87)|
|Title||Professor of Cornish Studies at Exeter University|
Antony Charles Thomas, CBE, FSA (26 April 1928 – 7 April 2016) was a British historian and archaeologist who was Professor of Cornish Studies at Exeter University, and the first Director of the Institute of Cornish Studies, from 1971 until his retirement in 1991. He was recognised as a Bard of the Cornish Gorseth with the name Gwas Godhyan in 1953.
Birth, early life and education
He was born 26 April 1928, the son of Donald Woodroffe Thomas and Viva Warrington Thomas, his wife.
He attended Elmhirst Preparatory day school, Camborne and Upcott House School, Okehampton. In 1940 he received a scholarship to Bradfield College, but on the advice of a family friend was instead sent to Winchester College on a 'Headmaster's Nomination'. In 1945 at the age of 17 he joined the army as a Young Soldier and later was an ammunition examiner in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps; he would serve in Northern Ireland, Portsmouth, Scotland and Egypt, the latter of which helped inspire his interest in archaeology. He demobilised in 1948 at which point he matriculated into Corpus Christi College, Oxford, receiving a BA Honours degree in Jurisprudence in 1951. He then studied under V. Gordon Childe at the UCL Institute of Archaeology and received a Diploma in Prehistoric Archaeology in 1953.
Thomas' first public lecture was entitled 'The Glebe Lands of Camborne' for the Camborne Old Cornwall Society in 1946, while on a week's leave from the Army in Portsmouth. His academic career officially began as a part-time Workers' Educational Association lecturer in archaeology in Cornwall 1954-58. He became Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh from 1958 to 1967. From 1967 to 1971, he was appointed the first Professor of Archaeology at the University of Leicester. During this period, he became a FSA in 1960 and was awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship for 1965 to 1967.
In 1972 Thomas founded and became director of the Institute of Cornish Studies, affiliated with the University of Exeter at which he was now the first Professor of Cornish Studies. At this time he also launched and edited its learned journal, Cornish Studies. He defined its field as:
"the study of all aspects of man and his handiwork in the regional setting (Cornwall and Scilly), past, present and future. The development of society, industry and the landscape in our fast changing world is as much of concern … as the history of those vast topics in the recent and remote past."
In 1983, he was awarded a Doctorate of Literature by the University of Oxford. He was Sir John Rhys Fellow of the University of Oxford and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College from 1985 to 1986.
He retired as Director of the Institute and Professor of Cornish Studies in 1991; he was awarded an Emeritus Fellowship at Exeter by the Leverhulme Trust (1992–94). Thomas was also awarded Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, by the National University of Ireland in 1996.
Thomas' first archaeological excavation was at the Bronze Age barrow on Godrevy headland, St Ives in 1950, and he initially saw himself as a prehistorian. He was Director of excavations at Gwithian, Cornwall (1949–1963), which revealed an important post-Roman occupation.
He was best known for his contributions to early medieval archaeology, particularly to the archaeology of early Christianity in Britain and Ireland. After Gwithian, excavations at early Christian sites included Nendrum Monastery, County Down in 1954; a chapel at East Porth, Teän, Isles of Scilly in 1956; Iona Abbey, Argyll in 1956–1963; Ardwall Island, Kirkcudbright; and Abercorn, West Lothian 1964–65. His first major work in this field was The Early Christian Archaeology of North Britain (1971), followed by similarly influential volumes including Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500 (1981) and And Shall These Mute Stones Speak?: post-Roman inscriptions in Western Britain (1994).
Roles in organizations
- Learned societies
He was a Board Member of the Royal Institution of Cornwall and Honorary Librarian of its Courtney Library until 2011, having previously served as its president in 1970-1971. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, and was President of the Council for British Archaeology 1970-1973.
He has been President of the Society for Landscape Studies since 1993. He was president of the Cornish Methodist Historical Association in 1993. He was Chairman of the Society for Church Archaeology, 1995–98.
He has been Chairman of the BBC South West Regional Advisory Council, 1975–80; of the Department of the Environment Area Archaeology Committee, Cornwall and Devon, 1975–79; and of the Cornwall Committee for Rescue Archaeology 1976–88.
- Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 1958.
- Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1960.
- Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy, 1973.
- Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 1975.
- Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, 1982.
- Fellow of the British Academy, 1989.
- Honorary Fellow of St David’s University College, Lampeter, 1992.
- Fellow of University College London, 1992.
- Honorary Doctor of Literature National University of Ireland, 1996.
- Honorary Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 2000.
- William Frend Medal, Society of Antiquaries of London, 1982.
- Jenner Medal, Royal Institution of Cornwall, 2008.
- DL (Deputy Lieutenant of Cornwall), 1988.
- CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire), 1991.
See full Biography in Gathering the Fragments, 2012, pp. 177–183, ISBN 1908878037.
Key publications (in date order)
- 1967: Christian Antiquities of Camborne
- 1971: The Early Christian Archaeology of North Britain ISBN 0-19-214102-3
- 1971: Britain and Ireland in Early Christian Times ISBN 0-500-57002-7
- 1973: St Ninian’s Isle and its Treasure (with A. Small and D. Wilson). ISBN 0-19-714101-3
- 1974: Military Insignia of Cornwall (with D. Ivall). ISBN 0-903686-07-4
- 1981: Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500 ISBN 0-7134-1442-1
- 1985: Exploration of a Drowned Landscape ISBN 0-7134-4853-9
- 1986: Celtic Britain ISBN 0-500-02107-4
- 1988: Views and Likenesses: photographers in Cornwall and Scilly 1839–70 ISBN 1-871294-00-2
- 1993: Tintagel, Arthur and Archaeology ISBN 0-7134-6690-1
- 1994: And Shall These Mute Stones Speak?: post-Roman inscriptions in Western Britain ISBN 0-7083-1160-1
- 1998: Christian Celts, Messages and Images ISBN 0-7524-2849-7
- 1999: Silent in the Shroud ISBN 1-874012-21-0
- 1999: The Penzance Market Cross
- 2002: Whispering Reeds (with D. R. Howlett). ISBN 1-84217-085-6
- 2003: Vita Sancti Paterni ISBN 0-905285-73-5
- 2012: Gathering the Fragments ISBN 1-908878-03-7
Alphabetical list of publications (incomplete)
References & notes
- Who's Who
- "Society of Antiquaries of London Online Newsletter". us6.campaign-archive1.com. Retrieved 2016-04-11.
- List of new Bards during the 1950s -Gorseth Kernow official website.
- Antony Charles, son of Donald Woodroffe & Viva Warrington Thomas. Born 26 April 1928 and baptized (presumably at Camborne Wesley Chapel) 10 June 1928 (Cornwall Record Office: MR/CB/902, No 41, page 15).
- Thomas, Charles; edited by Chris Bond (2012). Gathering the fragments : the selected essays of a groundbreaking historian. Sheffield: Cornovia. ISBN 9781908878038.
- Lawson-Jones, Freya (2015). "The academic memoirs of Professor Charles Thomas". The Post Hole. 43. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
- Thomas 2012, p. vii
- Leverhulme Trust website, giving current terms for research fellowships
- ISC homepage.
- "Pastscape - Detailed Result: MONUMENT NO. 425099". pastscape.org.uk.
- Thomas, Charles (1 December 2012). "Alumni Reflections". Archaeology International. 15 (0). doi:10.5334/ai.1517.
- "Gwithian, Cornwall: Excavations 1949–1969". Archaeology Data Service.
- Thomas, Charles (1985). Exploration of a drowned landscape : archaeology and history of the Isles of Scilly (Reprinted. ed.). London: B.T. Batsford. ISBN 9780713448535.
- O'Sullivan, Jerry (1998). "More than the sum of the parts: Iona: archaeological investigations 1875-1996". Church Archaeology. 2.
- Thomas, Charles. "An Early Christian cemetery and chapel on Ardwall Isle, Kirkcudbright" (PDF). archaeologydataservice.ac.uk. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
- "Abercorn Church And Anglian Monastery". canmore.org.uk.
- This position is now held by Bernard Deacon. Pers. comm. with Charles Thomas, 4 Jan 2012.
- University of Wales press description of author. and Who's Who
- "Home - Cornwall Archaeological Society". Cornwall Archaeological Society. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
- Society for Medieval Archaeology
- Society for Landscape Studies website.
- "The Society for Church Archaeology". britarch.ac.uk. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
- This body is now called Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England and is generally known as "English Heritage".
- Now a constituent college of the University of Wales, at Lampeter
- "The Frend Medal, named after its donor, our Fellow William Frend. It is awarded for contributions to knowledge of the archaeological and material remains of the early Christian Church." SAL website
- First awarded in 1936, the Jenner Medal is presented to individuals in recognition of a serious body of work with Cornish history. It was named after Henry Jenner (1848-1934), first Grand Bard of the Cornish Gorseth. 
- "Jessica Mann biography (official website)". Retrieved 2009-03-21.
- Mann, Jessica (28 April 2012). "What do you mean, the good old days?". The Guardian.
- Who's Who[clarification needed]
- Peter Fowler. "Charles Thomas obituary". the Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
- This is the publication of a recently re-discovered typescript, originally written in 1951. Not available for purchase. Distributed only to family and selected friends.
- This is the publication of a recently re-discovered typescript, originally written in 1945. Not available for purchase. Distributed only to family and selected friends.